A Note to Know is a series we’re running to help educate fellow fragrance lovers on the complex and nuanced spectrum of perfume notes. We like to think of notes as tiny atoms of scent that bind together and reconfigure in different ways to create the fragrances we know and love!   

Today’s focus is patchouli. Join us on a crash course on one of the most widely used fragrance notes in perfumery. We cover its origins, what it smells like, explore notes similar to patchouli and discuss which scents showcase it best.

What IS Patchouli?

Patchouli is a fragrant woody herb that is a member of the mint family, native of Asia. The name of the plant is actually coined from two old Tamil words, “patchai”, which means green, and “ellai”, which means leaf.

Top brands such as Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace have added this  dark, sensual note to their compositions, but they are by no means the first to recognize its aromatic value.

During the excavation of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb, the archaeologists found 40 liters of patchouli oil, while in the 14th century early European traders valued it as highly as gold.

Patchouli oil, produced by distilling the leaves,  changes its scent with age. Freshly distilled oil is earthier and sharper than an aged oil, which will develop to sweet, fruity-like richness.

How Patchouli Displays in a Fragrance:

The fragrant profile of patchouli depends on its age and distillation technique, but as a single note it has a herbaceous, earthy aroma with rich minty undertones, while some more fermented varieties are sweeter, but nevertheless rich and bold.

Here we’ve compiled our favourite patchouli-scented perfumes.  These are our top three patchouli picks:

Tenue de Soirée by Annick Goutal

If you’ve yet to experience a patchouli themed fragrance, start here. A marriage of powdery, distinctly floral iris blossom and dry patchouli is like sniffing a flower in earth-rich garden. An intriguing balance of floriental notes with fruity interest by way of blackcurrant, Tenue de Soirée never veers into sweet or heavy territory. Pairs well with late spring evenings, city lights and a bomber jacket. Catch you outside!

Vraie Blonde by Etat Libre d`Orange

Etat Libre d’Orange conjures the ghost of Marilyn Monroe in Vraie Blonde (True Blonde) in this overtly sexual scent. The patchouli in this composition stays true to the theme: it’s raw and dirty, acting like a magnet for the peach note, drawing it close and preventing it to explode in all of its ripe juiciness. Of course there’s champagne in it, to loosen up the spiciness of myrrh and white pepper. In short, this is the high-end rooftop party you always wanted to attend, but couldn’t manage to get an invitation to outside of your fantasies.

Carven L’Absolu by Carven Parfums

Jasmine is the hero note in this one, but it’s not trying to get the accolades for doing everything by itself. Master perfumer, Francis Kurkdjian uses the resinous, velvety, and incredibly sensual patchouli oil to push the mandarin and ylang-ylang notes to their outer limits. Floral, balsamic and oh-so perfect, this one is reserved only for those who deserve to smell this gorgeous.

Notes Similar to Patchouli:

Due to its unique scent, the only two notes that are similar to patchouli are vetiver and dry mint leaf.

What Patchouli Pairs with Best:

Patchouli blends well with almost every note on floral spectrum as well as the woody notes like cedarwood, sandalwood, and birch.

To help you on your journey to discover more patchouli-themed fragrances use our new search tool that filters results by single notes. Check it out here

Do you have a favorite patchouli fragrance? Snap it, share it on Instagram and tag us in the comment @Scentbird.

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